Updated comment on The Exclusive Brethren web site in June 2009:-

            A few more comments suggest themselves.

            Firstly, the apology posted prominently on the front page of the site does not suggest that the Exclusives are like Paul who took pleasure in insults (2 Corinthians 12:10).

            Then there is the question of the Exclusives meeting rooms. A board is placed outside saying what the room is: BRETHREN’S MEETING ROOM. By advertising themselves in this way they are showing that they are a sect, that is, the Brethren sect. Mr Darby recognised no name “ I prefer to accept no designation ” (Letters Vol. 1 page 514. The Brethren on their web site say they do not take a name, but then give themselves one on their noticeboard ! In days gone by any board put outside their rooms simply advertised the Gospel and was there to encourage people to come in at the advertised time and hear it. Some Brethren groups also include the times of other meetings.

            The next thing they put up are the words: PLACE OF PUBLIC RELIGIOUS WORSHIP. This is misleading to put it mildly. Place of Religious worship would be OK or Place of Private Religious worship, but not Public. No outsider is allowed into the rooms to attend a meeting without first of all contacting the trustees by telephone to ostensibly obtain information about meetings. However, one suspects the persons would be vetted in some way before they were allowed in. I question whether persons like myself would be allowed in anyway as I would be considered dangerous as suffering from leprosy in the head ! That is what at least one person has said about me. As a matter of fact I only know one person who has been allowed in to witness one of their meetings. He was a historian of Brethren.

            I have before me a letter from a Valuation Officer in 1983 regarding the use of a room for Public Religious Worship (The underlining is in the letter). The writer asked for independent evidence that the Meeting Room was used for Public Religious Worship. In other words, could witnesses be produced (other than Brethren) that they were welcome to attend the meetings held in the room. The room was not an Exclusives room, incidentally. As far as I can see Exclusives have put up boards which possibly just keep themselves within the letter of the law in order to get local tax exemption. Whether a court of law would accept that they have done enough to get it may be arguable. The letter I have just mentioned refers to an earlier letter which had asked for “details of the overt actions taken by the occupiers of the hereditament to render it available for Public Religious Worship.” However, it is not just a question of the law of the land which may not be identical in all countries and in any case can be varied, but what the Lord thinks. Paul said of himself: “As to righteousness which [is] in [the] law, found blameless” (Philippians 3:6). A Jewish court could not have found fault with him under the law of Moses. It could not have seen the lust inside him (Romans 7:7). However, Paul learnt that he was the first of sinners and less than the least of all saints (1 Timothy 1:15; Ephesians 3:8). The question is: “Would the Lord consider that just keeping ourselves within the law of the land is good enough ?” We should be honest and that before God and men (Romans 12:17; 2 Corinthians 8:21; 1 Peter 2:12). At the time of writing quite a number of the UK’s M.P’s are in trouble because they have claimed for expenses in excess of those allowed by the rules. In some cases it has been argued that they were within the letter of the rules. However, they were not within the spirit of them. Even if Exclusives have kept themselves within the letter of the law on local tax are they within the spirit of it ? I leave it to their consciences to decide.

            In days gone by for the breaking of bread a board was placed near the back of the room saying something like: “Will those breaking bread please sit beyond this board”. The implication was that persons coming in from outside or persons under discipline should sit behind the board. The board was later given up and it was left to those who were, we may say, doorkeepers to see that it was clear who was breaking bread and who not. No distinction was made at other meetings, though persons coming in from outside usually sat near the back, rather like what the Lord speaks of in Luke 14:7-11. As to excommunication see F. E. Raven New Series Vol. 17 page 157 and Letters page 150.

            Reverting to the piece regarding Aberdeen that I commented on in May I have noticed that it is claimed that what Mr Taylor did at Aberdeen was “to provoke a reaction”. If you pick up a concordance to Mr Darby’s Translation or, say, Young’s to the AV you will find that the bulk of the references to ‘provoke’ relate to provoking God and are in the Old Testament. In the New we have it said that we are not to provoke our children to anger (Ephesians 6:4). The Galatians were exhorted by Paul not to provoke one another (Galatians 5:26). However there is one passage that speaks of provoking one another in a good sense, that is, provoking one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). Clearly Mr Taylor was not doing this at Aberdeen ! The laughter and stamping that went on in the meeting showed not only that Mr Taylor was not right but also that a large number of those present were not either ! No wonder Stanley McCallum said: “I’m beginning to wonder where I am”.

            Lastly, one would comment that men like Mr Darby and Mr Raven never held that Brethren would go on without failure to the end. The following quotations from their ministry would confirm this:

J. N. D Letters, Vol. 1 page 322; Vol. 2 pages 339/340 and 385; Vol. 3 page 201 and Collected Writings Vol.31 pages 372/373.

F. E. R. Letters page 91 and Ministry New Series Vol. 3 pages 293/294 and Vol.7 page 467.

June 2009